How to Charge an RV Battery with a Solar Generator – Everything You Need to Know
How to Charge an RV Battery with a Solar Generator – Everything You Need to Know
Just about every RV, Motorhome, camper, and pop-up trailer will use some sort of a 12 volt electrical system to supply power to electrical devices and appliances. In most cases, everything from the lights in your RV to the wall outlets you use to charge your smartphone will flow through a 12 volt battery bank.
Unfortunately, unless you are connected to shore power, your RV’s battery system can become fully drained surprisingly quickly. This is where solar power can really come in handy. Not only are folding solar panels, lightweight solar generators, and other pieces of portable solar equipment now compact enough to be a practical for use in an RV, embracing solar power gives you the ability to charge your batteries from even the most remote locations. With the right equipment, you can keep your RV batteries topped up from anywhere that the sun is shining.
How Can We Help?
Given the rising popularity of solar generators, many RV enthusiasts are asking if they can charge their RV battery directly with a solar generator. To answer this question, we are going to explain everything you need to know about solar generators and RV batteries. We will also explain some useful information about the types of solar panels you can take with you on your next RV trip.
If you are wondering how to charge an RV battery with a solar generator, you have come to the right place!
Determining How Much Solar Power Your RV Actually Needs
Before you go shopping for solar generators and solar panels, the first question you need to ask is how much solar power do you actually need to charge your RV’s batteries? Whether you are just looking to charge a single 12 volt RV battery, or you are looking to keep an entire backup battery bank topped up, knowing the exact amount of electricity you require is an incredibly important piece of information to have.
Assuming you are only looking to charge a small number of batteries, determining how much solar power you will actually need is actually rather simple. Most batteries will plainly state their power rating directly on the casing of the battery.
If your battery is brand new, you can simply use the amp hour and voltage rating of the battery to determine your solar requirements. If the batteries you are looking to charge are heavily used, you may need to calculate the true amp-hours rating, as battery capacity will always diminish over time.
Measuring Your RV Batteries:
Like any other type of battery, RV batteries are rated with specific measurements that help explain how well they will actually perform. One of the most useful measurements is amp hours, or AH, which explains how much amperage a battery can provide over an hour.
To determine the amp hour rating of a standard 12 volt RV battery, you will need to use a multimeter. Simply connect a basic resistor to the battery’s terminals, then monitor the discharge until the voltage decreases to the 12 volts the battery is rated for. You can then use the battery’s real current to calculate its amp hours rating.
Once you have accurate measurements for your RV batteries, you can then choose the correct solar equipment for your requirements.
Using a Solar Generator to Charge Your RV Batteries
Solar generators are ideal for RVs, as they can act as an all-in-one solar power station. Not only can they be connected directly to your RV battery, which makes charging incredibly straightforward, they feature a built-in charge controller, power inverter, their own deep cycle solar battery bank, and all the output charging ports you could ever need.
You simply need to pair your solar generator with an appropriate number of solar panels and you can begin charging your RV batteries with clean, environmentally-friendly solar electricity right away.
On top of everything else, solar generators are designed to be highly portable. Most models feature lightweight designs, built-in carrying handles, rugged and durable exteriors, and easy-to-read LCD or LED display screens, so you can monitor the charge status of any connected batteries, as well as the remaining power within the solar generator itself.
Connecting a Solar Generator to an RV Battery:
While it is possible to connect a solar generator directly to the terminals on your RV’s batteries, most people actually find it easier to charge their RV battery through the 12V car outlet in their RV’s dashboard.
Unlike a gasoline-powered generator, a solar generator produces zero emissions, so you can simply run the generator inside your RV. You just have to plug your generator into the 12V charging port and let it trickle charge your RV battery.
Once the battery has been charged, you would simply disconnect the solar generator. From there, you could take the solar generator outside and reconnect it to your solar panel array, which would ensure it is charged and ready to go the next time your RV’s battery needs a charge.
Some solar generators will even come with alligator clip charging cables, so users can connect the unit to their car battery in situations where they need a boost. You can use this method to charge your RV batter, as well as any additional 12 volt batteries you are using as part of your RV’s power bank.
Charging Your Devices Directly:
Another advantage of using a solar generator is the fact that you can charge and power electronic devices and appliances directly. Rather than using your solar generator strictly as a battery charger, you can actually take some of the burden off of your RV batteries by using the generator to power some of the electronics that would otherwise drain your RV batteries.
Most solar generators will feature a variety of output ports, including standard AC wall-style outputs, multiple USB ports, a 12VDC outlet, and even the newer USB-C outlets. Rather than always draw power from your RV batteries, you can plus devices into your solar generator.
Choosing the Right Solar Equipment to Charge Your RV Battery
If you are unsure where to start with solar generators, we highly recommend reading through our Solar Generator Buyer's Guide, which counts down six of the best solar generators on the market today. The guide also goes over some useful information about how solar generators work, how you can wire them to solar panels, and why they are ideal for RV owners.
Once you have decided on the right solar generator for your specific needs, you can also shop our Solar Generator Kit Collection. These convenient and affordable kits package high-performance solar generators with highly efficient solar panels, so you can start charging your RV batteries right away.
Solar Panels for RVs:
Choosing solar panels for your RV is somewhat different than choosing solar panels to use as part of a permanent solar power system. For starters, portability is a major concern. Not only do the solar panels need to be compact so you can store them when they are not in use, you will want to look for solar panels that have a power rating that is suitable for your solar generator.
If you are looking for compact and portable solar panels, we recommend shopping our Collection of Solar Panel Suitcases and Blankets. We carry a wide range of affordable and efficient folding solar panels from some of the most reputable brands in the solar industry.
You may also want to take a look at our Collection of DIY RV Solar Panel Kits. These kits were assembled to meet the unique requirements of campers, RV enthusiasts, and even boaters. Each kit pairs a high-performance solar generator or a fixed power inverter with enough portable solar panels to give you access solar power from anywhere that your RV adventures take you.
If you want to know more about how you would wire everything together, you can also read our Solar Panel Connectors Guide, which explains everything you need to know about MC4 solar panel connectors and solar extension cables.
By investing in a solar generator and one or more solar panels, you can charge your RV battery with clean solar electricity from even the most remote off-grid locations. Solar generators offer you convenience and reliability, without taking up much room inside your RV.
The straightforward nature of a solar generator also makes them the ideal piece of equipment for those that are new to solar power. If you have any further questions about charging RV batteries with a solar generator, or any other questions related to solar power, we encourage you to reach out. We are always here to help you get started with solar power!